Alexander Hamilton Papers

New York Assembly. Remarks on an Act Concerning Wrecks at Sea, [3 February 1787]

New York Assembly. Remarks on an
Act Concerning Wrecks at Sea1

[New York, February 3, 1787]

Mr. Hamilton was not satisfied with the punishment of fines and imprisonment to be inflicted on those persons who despoil’d the distressed of their property; persons cast away, were objects of commiseration, and every person who was so callous as to add to their misfortune, deserved more severe punishment.

In England it was made death without benefit of clergy, this he thought too severe, and therefore proposed to soften it, by extending it to corporal punishment, at the discretion of the court, so as not to affect life or limb.

This punishment might be distributed as the case required, but as the law stood at present it was too lenient in its punishment for some aggravated offences.2

The [New York] Daily Advertiser, February 5, 1787.

1On the motion of Samuel Jones, the Assembly resolved itself into a committee of the whole to consider “An act concerning wrecks of the Sea, and giving remedy to Merchants who be robbed, or whose goods perish on the Sea” (New York Assembly Journal description begins Journal of the Assembly of the State of New York (Publisher and place vary, 1782–1788). description ends , 1787, 34). H’s remarks referred to the section of the act which prescribed punishment for persons who took goods from any stranded ship or vessel.

2H’s suggestion was adopted and incorporated in the act that was passed on February 16. See Laws of the State of New York, I description begins Laws of the State of New York Passed at the Sessions of the Legislature Held in the Years 1777, 1778, 1779, 1780, 1781, 1782, 1783 and 1784 Inclusive, being the First Seven Sessions (Albany, 1886). description ends I, 400–02.

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